Overweight and Pregnant: 4 Tips for Keeping the Weight Gain to a Minimum

pregnant woman
Image via Flickr/ mrsraggle

Weight.  It’s one of my least favorite words.  I’ve spent my entire adult life fluctuating between being overweight and being more overweight.  My love for food and satisfaction in the sofa far outweigh (pun intended) my disdain for being heavy.  My years of fertility struggles constantly taunted me with “Maybe if you weren’t OBESE you’d have a baby by now!”

I had plenty of time, motivation, support, and knowledge to lose the weight, but, shamefully, I never made it happen. 

So when I finally got pregnant, I was filled with happiness, but still cloaked in regret for not shedding the weight before I housed a human.  Would my weight hurt the baby?  Would I have the endurance? Would I suffer from gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, thrombosis, miscarriage, or pre-term or overdue labor?

My fantasies of being the girl with the tight, round baby bump became fears of being the girl with fatter more misshapen fat.  Would anyone ever know if I was even pregnant?  Or, would they just assume I was gaining yet another twenty pounds caused by excessive cheese and s’more binges?

Before I met with my OB, I knew my weight would be a concern for him.  Part of me wished my husband would skip that initial appointment, so he didn’t witness the speech I’d inevitably receive.  But neither disappointed, and my husband sat by my side while the doctor addressed his concerns for a mother of my size.


Determined to prevent future lectures and to do my best for my baby, I vowed to keep my weight gain under twenty pounds, and silently promised to really impress him by sticking to the fifteen pounds he really advised. 

I had no exercise routine prior to getting pregnant.  With my miscarriage history, I had NO intention of starting one (even though my doctor did not advise against it).

The first trimester was simple.  Nausea became the boss of my day, preventing me from inhaling food at my usual pace.  The second trimester was a bit more challenging.  My appetite was overwhelming, but fortunately, my energy level increased helping me burn some of the extra calories I consumed each day.  And now, in the third trimester, my meal portions have dwindled as my internal companion crowds my stomach and drains my energy.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I am thankful to report I am on target to adhere to the weight goals set forth by my physician, but even if I wasn’t, I have learned not to beat myself up.  Being heavy does not disqualify you or make you unfit to carry a child.  Being heavy does not bind you to ten months of complications and guilt (trust me, you will feel guilt for LOADS of other things, so cut yourself some slack here!).  Being overweight most of my adult life does not qualify me to give weight loss advice, however, here are a few tips that helped transform my mind without causing me to murder a pack of Oreos each night.


4 Tips for Staying the Course and Keeping Weight Gain to a Minimum While Pregnant

  1. Your body is not your enemy.  The psyche of a weight warrior typically includes a pretty negative opinion of ones physical appearance.  Change that.  Your body is AMAZING!  Your body GROWS people!  Your body deserves a high five and a back rub!  And a break from being ridiculed for extra pounds.
  2. Direct “fetus food films” in your head.  Sounds silly, I know.  But these “mental mini movies” have been a HUGE source of motivation for me.  I do a quick scan of the nutritional content (or lack thereof) of most of the foods I eat.  Then, I picture how that nutritional content will resonate with my growing baby.  I picture oranges jolting him out of a nap, making him smile, and giving him the energy to develop another fold or two in his genius brain.  I picture Greek yogurt hardening his bones, so he’ll be able to kick a soccer ball with his uncle when he’s born.  Make sense?  Maybe a bit extreme, but these “films” have helped me consume healthier foods than ever before.
  3. Move!  While I was too scared to begin an exercise regimen during my pregnancy, I did view getting my heart rate up in a whole new light.  The longer walk to the store no longer bothered me and taking the stairs didn’t kill me.  It wasn’t much, but every little bit seemed to help.  Park farther away, skip the elevator, walk the mall, weed your garden- do whatever you can, and you may be surprised by the benefit. 
  4. Make your mind your ally.  For me, weight gain is often affiliated with emotional turmoil.  But pregnancy, even during those more difficult days, has been one of the happiest times of my life.  Eating my feelings no longer applies.  Focus on what matters.  Forget about financial stresses, partner woes, undesirable aesthetics, and things beyond your control.  In this moment, you are making miracles happen.  In this moment, you should be nothing short of happy.  Oreos need not apply.

You are not sentenced to a life of fat.  Being heavy before you begin does not necessarily mean pregnancy will enhance the undesireable reflection you usually see in the mirror.  You have no idea how the hormones will affect your appetite, metabolism, and body shape.  You may like the result more than you ever imagined!

Have you struggled with weight gain while pregnant or before becoming pregnant? How did you win the battle within your self and maintain your health while pregnant?

What do you think?

Overweight and Pregnant: 4 Tips for Keeping the Weight Gain to a Minimum

Jennifer Bruno is a credentialed trainer by day and a freelance writer and aspiring photographer by night. Raised in rural Kansas, Jen moved to sunny Florida after college where she met her husband, who married her despite hearing her sing Dixie Chicks karaoke. Shortly after saying “I do”, they moved to New York City to fulfill their dream of living amongst the bright lights and skyscrapers. They currently share their cramped apartment with two modelesque miniature dachshunds named Millie an ... More

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  1. LIZ says:

    exercise help me a lot to just gaing the weight that we need

  2. Liz says:

    this is a good article I know when i was pregnant i did try not to gain so much weight because i didn’t want anything bad to happen to my baby and i did a pretty good job now i can’t wait to lose my baby fat 🙂

  3. DawnRichter says:

    I had a lot of the same fears and pretty much am overweight for the same reason. I couldn’t believe we got pregnant right after my husband came back from deployment. I thought it was going to take us the better part of a year to even conceive! As soon as I walked in for my appointment I saw the looks behind everyone’s happy expressions (or maybe I was just paranoid). When the nurse was taking my BP (and each one that took it hereafter) I saw this clear look that was like "oh here it comes!" and the subsequent look of surprise when it was completely normal. Even when I was in labor my BP was 119/85. I actually passed out my first blood test! I was the one who recited the speech for the doctor. My net gain with my 8lb. daughter was 16 pounds, and I did nothing well out of the norm. For reference I am 6′ 1" and 250. With my son he was 9 1/2 lbs. and I gained around 20. By the second kid I was a lot less worried, and it was well founded as I had 2 perfectly healthy pregnancies. Now we are TTC #3 and this is the first time I am actually having the experience of "trying." #2 was my breastfeeding birth control stopped working lol. We’ll see how it goes.

  4. orgnlrubyl says:

    I had lost roughly 20 pounds before I found out I was pregnant with our first baby. We had been trying for 7 1/2 years, and had ultimately given up. I was so thrilled when the test came out positive, then I got worried because I was still overweight. So I was being careful but not as careful as I probably should have been, but I still only gained about 12 pounds in my first 2 trimesters. Then I found out I had gestational diabetes so my eating really had to change. Now I have lost roughly 8 of those 12 pounds I gained. I am feeling better and my baby is still growing like he’s suppose to, not to fast and not to slow. My doctor has been great through all of this and he really encourages me at every visit. He tells me how proud he is of me for keeping my numbers low, and how great the baby is looking. This has been a better experience than I was afraid it would be!

  5. luretha says:

    I’m overweight and didn’t want children. I actually thought I would be able to have any because of my weight. When I found out I was my ob was great but I thought I would miscarry. I was so negative in my thinking because weight is to blame for everything. Because I was pregnant I was more conscience of what I ate. My pregnancy was great with no issues. My labor and delivery was rough. I went into a coma after having my daughter and have memory loss of about two weeks. I still don’t know what happened. 18 months later my daughter is good and my regular doctor wants me to try more permanent measures to not have any more.

  6. youngmommy26 says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! before I got pregnant with my son I weighed 160 pounds, after I had him, I weighed in at 230 pounds…WOW right? I couldn’t believe I had gained so much weight! now I am weight in at 250 pounds and me and my spouse are TTC my second child, I’m hoping to lose some weight with this pregnancy, if not, not gain too much, but after I have my second child, I plan to lose about 100 pounds.

  7. Julie101 says:

    hey i had my doctor worry about my weight in the beginning but not as much anymore i started of weighing at 227 lbs and by 27 weeks got down to 196 lbs i am currently 29 weeks pregnant and have put on a little bit of weight now weighing 202 lbs as i have gotten a little lax on my routine before i was pregnant i ate junk all the time and never got off my butt but when the doctor told me all the issues i could have i completely changed my entire eating habit and got off my butt and started walking everywhere…i have more energy and can do alot more now i actually like taking the half hour and walking to the shops now i do more with my daughter who is 10mths old now and very excited about getting a little brother for her birthday lol yes i know my partner works quickly. it is better for you in the long run to lose the weight because after bu is born it stays off…my new outlook is treat your entire life like your a diabetic and u will be happy with the results

  8. Rodney says:

    I have to say my Dr has been great. She only once said something to me about being overweight. I told her my mom suggested I not gain any wieight (not realistic or healthy I know). I told her my plan was less than 20 pounds and so far so good. I am 22 weeks and have only gained 2 lbs. This is a great article. Nice to finally see someone saying it’s ok.

  9. Ashley says:

    My first pregnancy was great I lost weight and continuesd loosing weight and I had a lot I energy by the time my first son was born I was below 200lbs for the first time in 10 years… But then it all came back… Now this time I’m pregnant again but I weigh 240 lbs and have no energy and no motivation and I keep gaining and gaining and this morning sickness is horrendous 🙁 I’m only a bout 2 months along but I feel horrible. Do you hunk it will get better???

  10. I wish my doctor would be happy about how little weight I have gained. I am overweight also and I’m heading in for my fourth glucose tolerance test. She swears because I am bigger that I will become diabetic. ALL MY RESULTS HAVE BEEN AWESOME but she wont’ quit making me get tested!

  11. Heather Esch says:

    This article nearly made me cry! It is nice to finally read a possitive message about overweight and pregant. I have struggled with weight all my life. I lost 30lbs before becoming pregnant but still was very heavy. I am 16 weeks and last I went in I have only gained 3lbs. My dr is very happy with all my vitals. This baby is helping me to be more consious and making me get up and move. 1st trimester was not as easy but now with energy returning im more positive than ever, I even have plans to train for a 5k with friends after the baby is born, Though i may not look pregnant I look and feel thinner than I did before pregnancy.

  12. Erin says:

    Thank you for posting this! I love seeing that I’m not the only one out there. There aren’t a lot of sites that speak about being a bigger mommy to be. Thank you!

  13. Amanda521 says:

    I’m struggling with gaining too much weight with my pregnancy. I try to eat healthy but I can’t seem to slow down the weight gain.

  14. I’m working out as we speak trying to keep the lbs away

  15. Sarah Murphy says:

    Thanks being overweight most of my life I was excited about my pregnancy but then fear crept in with the dreaded talk from the OB, but I beat her to the punch and said look I know etc.. I have kept to a good healthy diet and walking and 5 months into this I am doing good. My morning sickness through the pregnancy might be a huge factor, but I haven’t gained anything yet, I am maintaining and still eating what I am suppose etc. Blood pressure is good and sugars have been good. so it is possible to keep things going well. I am scared I will gain a ton towards the end but I just have to keep going with what I know.

  16. SSValenzuela says:

    I was tiny before I was pregnant and was still risk of preeclampsia. I also gained a little over 60 pounds during my pregnancy. With eating better and breast feeding I only 7 more pounds to go to be back to my pre-pregnancy body. Next pregnancy I will try to eat healthier and not eat everything I saw.

  17. yhalpern says:

    Always a good reminder!


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